Hounding-Up Pasta Al Forno
I never heard back yesterday on my baked penne question, so I thought I'd try another way. I'm going to mix slightly under-done penne, bechamel, pecorino, and blanched broccoli in a casserole, bake until bubbly, then uncover top with bread crumbs and bake until brown. The question is....
How can I make this more hound-y. Right now it sounds pretty boring to me. I don't have a lot of experience with cream sauces so I'm not sure what to add to make it really pop. Any tips would be much appreciated.
Personally I add cinnamon and vodka when making my al forno sauce...really adds an unexpected dimension to the dish.
How about rather than blanched broccoli use shredded roasted brussel sprouts? Pine nuts, pancetta. Add a little nutmeg to the bechamel. Leave the bechamel slightly runny because it'll thicken. You could use panko instead of bread crumbs for a lighter topping. But, if you use bread crumbs, mix it with butter at least. But, honestly, sometimes boring is great.
I would vote for pancetta and/or porcinis. If you do add pancetta, make sure you saute it first.
I would also consider adding caramelized onions.
Add some diced prosciutto (6-8 oz per quart of bechamel/pound of pasta) and freshly grated nutmeg to the bechamel. The penne (rigata)should be no more than half cooked before you put it into the oven. Remember, it's going to cook for another 25 minutes or so.
I'd serve the broccoli as a side rather than incorporating it into the dish.
I ended up incorporating the 1/2 cooked penne, the bechamel flavored with nutmeg and thyme, parmesan, a little moz, porcini's sauteed with garlic and then topping with bread crumbs and more parmesan. It turned out nicely, but I think next time i would up the garlic. It was also more crunchy and chewy than creamy, perhaps more bechamel is in order next time, or a small dish. Very tasty. Thanks for all of the help!